Israel Sees Fivefold Increase in Homeschooling Requests Over Last Decade

Close to 1,900 kids in Israel receive homeschooling, with the coronavirus pandemic accelerating the number of applications by parents

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Vered Efrati and her children in Rishon Letzion, who receive homeschooling.
Vered Efrati and her children in Rishon Letzion, who receive homeschooling. Credit: Moti Milrod

The number of applications submitted by parents to homeschool their children increased fivefold over the last decade, a report by the National Council for the Child shows.

The report said the number of requests reached 1,892 last year, compared with 369 in 2010. The figures show that most of the applications for an exemption from the Compulsory Education Law were approved by the Education Ministry after a vetting process.

The number of students being homeschooled had been steadily increasing before the onset of COVID-19, but the pandemic gave the trend an additional push.

“When the lockdowns began we soon realized that the situation in the schools wouldn’t be stabilizing anytime soon,” said Vered Efrati, a mother of two from Rishon Letzion, whose children switched to homeschooling this year.

Her older son was in first grade when the pandemic erupted, and her daughter started first grade a year later. “There was a chaos and a serious lack of clarity. The children had a series of substitute teachers, classes on Zoom, quarantines. We realized we’d be at home a lot.”

She said there were other families in her area who had switched to homeschooling due to the virus. “Others say that they would be happy to begin homeschooling but feel that they’re not built for it as parents,” she said.

Efrati said she had always believed in the idea of homeschooling, which she observed during trips abroad. Her children were at home with her until age 3, “and the moment they reached the age of [educational] frameworks, I carefully searched for the best ones. I didn’t want starting school or preschool to destroy their curiosity, and I don’t believe in tests and pressure.”

The coronavirus spurred her to begin homeschooling. She quit her job and started a business tutoring.

The Education Ministry requires parents applying to homeschool to present a detailed curriculum that must cover about half the study material in core subjects. Efrati said she could cover the material in an hour a day. “There’s no need for so many subjects and tests. The schools rush through the material instead of letting children concentrate on important skills like writing and reading.”

The extra time enables her children to spend time in things that interest them, like nature walks. “It’s not something we used to do before, and now we go outdoors and my son walks around with a plant identifier. They’re opening up to new areas of interest instead of reading another boring story in a textbook,” she said.

Her children meet several times a week with other homeschooled children, and also attend enrichment classes in the afternoon. “They meet friends all the time,” said Efrati.

According to a 2019 report, which was written at the behest of the Education Ministry’s chief scientist, homeschooling has been steadily all over the world. Rates of homeschooling differ greatly between countries, but generally speaking about 1 percent of all school age children are currently homeschooled.

The report cited studies conducted in Israel and abroad that found that as a rule, the educational achievements of homeschooled children were similar or superior to those of students in the public schools. The studies also showed a correlation between the degree of parent involvement in their children’s education and their success. Other studies have shown that homeschooling does not harm the pupils’ emotional and social development.

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